Runaway Bride (1999)

Runaway Bride (1999)
  • Time: 116 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Romance
  • Director: Garry Marshall
  • Cast: Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Joan Cusack, Hector Elizondo


Ike Graham, New York columnist, writes his text always at the last minute. This time, a drunken man in his favourite bar tells Ike about Maggie Carpenter, a woman who always flees from her grooms in the last possible moment. Ike, who does not have the best opinion about females anyway, writes an offensive column without researching the subject thoroughly. The next day, Ike gets fired by his publisher (and former wife), because he went too far and faked the facts, which real journalists don’t do. Ike’s only way back into the business now is to do a fact-based report on Maggie and her upcoming fourth wedding attempt, which Ike predicts to fail again. So, as he circles her like a vulture his prey-to-be, Maggie’s opinion of Ike sinks below zero. Not only is Ike waiting for her to fail again but the whole town is poking fun at Maggie about her mistakes. But that is a point which Ike doesn’t like.

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  • When tabloid fodder serves as movie plot. Several summers ago, with the releases of My Best Friend’s Wedding and Conspiracy Theory, it was about Julia not getting the guy. This summer, with Notting Hill and now Runaway Bride, it is Julia in love and much publicized. Of course, Runaway Bride is a bit more of an occasion than merely winking at Roberts’ own offscreen detritus of former fiancees, a jilted husband-to-be and an ex-husband turned good friend. It is the reunion of Julia Roberts with her Pretty Woman costars Richard Gere and Hector Elizondo and director Garry Marshall.

    Nearly a decade after Pretty Woman catapulted her into the stratosphere, Roberts is still very much a star on top — with a top star’s salary and billing — and much of the pleasure one derives from watching this frothy romantic comedy is the confidence, cultivated in the past decade, Roberts brings to the proceedings. It is not the youthful recklessness she displayed in Pretty Woman but rather the strength of a seasoned pro.

    Roberts is Maggie Carpenter, a Maryland local famed for her penchant for backing out of her weddings at the very last minute — hence the nickname “the Runaway Bride.” Gere is Ike Graham, a New York City journalist known for his columnistic diatribes against women — little old ladies slap him on the street. Ike has exposed Maggie’s unmarrying ways. Maggie, about to embark on another marriage — this time with the athletically inclined Coach Bob (Christopher Meloni) — writes a letter of protest which gets Ike fired by his editor and ex-wife (Rita Wilson). His friend and his ex-wife’s new flame, Fisher (Elizondo), suggests he vindicate himself by going to Maryland and making sure Maggie bolts out of this wedding, too.

    So Ike does and, upon meeting Maggie, the antagonistic sparks fly. He follows her everywhere, tracks down all her ex-fiancees, ingratiates himself with her parents, her fiancee, and her best friend Peggy (the invaluable Joan Cusack). Maggie, in turn, is doing her best to keep grinning while thinking of ways to take her revenge. Soon, though, their antagonism evolves into attraction.

    There are reprises of several Pretty Woman moments — a hurtful encounter with a rude salesperson, haggling over the price for a particular service — but, on the whole, Runaway Bride inverts the former film’s formula even as it follows it. Gere is still the city slicker — though he’s no millionaire, he still loves jazz and tinkles on the piano. Roberts is still the down-to-earth gal with the all-out laugh. And the two stars still have that precious chemistry.

    Just watch the scene during the pre-wedding luau where Gere stands behind Roberts. Watch her tingle. Roberts, to this day an underrated actress, reacts like no other. She is peerless when it comes to conveying the natural reaction — whether it be one of love, sorrow or anger. Gere has never been more loosey-goosey. It’s evident that the two share a mutual affection for one another and, truly, all Garry Marshall has to do is point the camera and shoot. Marshall, of course, doesn’t merely do that. There are moments that are too cute but there are also moments that are hilarious (the videotape of Maggie’s aborted weddings), heart-swelling (the wedding rehearsal) and dramatic (the confrontation between Maggie and Ike outside the luau).

    One can only hope that another reunion will occur in another ten years.

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